Written by Kara Boehner
In the midst of my brokenness, God has been exemplified.
“Get married,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said. I’ve been married now for just over eight months, and I can say for sure – they weren’t wrong! I married my husband and my absolute best friend in the world, Jacob, this past summer. Being married is the coolest experience. Not only do you always have someone around to do all the fun things with, but you also get to have an endless sleepover with your best friend! That means 100% free reign to the person who loves you the best, understands you better than anyone, makes you laugh, cheers you on, and comforts you. It’s an all around great time.
Here’s the catch (because unfortunately, like most things, there is a catch). In order to experience all of the fun, laughter, and joy meant for you in a marriage, you also have to be willing to be open, vulnerable, honest, and forgiving. As I type those words, I’m well aware of how “unfun” they are. Stick with me, though.
I grew up in a home where the word “vulnerable” might as well have been a four-letter word. My sister and I were raised to be strong, independent, and wise women, never needing a man to provide anything for us. Showing weakness was one of the seven deadly sins. While that was the vibe in my home, the vibe in my heart was still very much like this: “emotional, insecure teenage girl seeking love and acceptance.” Because discussions about relationships and emotions were kept to a minimal growing up, I spent a lot of my time trying to navigate those rocky roads on my own, with little to no guidance about what was normal for me to be feeling. The good news is I made it out alive and even scored myself a killer husband along the way! The bad news, I made a lot of damaging choices before realizing what the right choices even were.
Here’s the brief summary of “Kara tries to navigate love and relationships and fails miserably:” I had my very first “boyfriend” at the age of 13. I was scared to death. I had not even been thinking about romantic relationships until I found myself in one! Unfortunately for my soul, this wasn’t the typical, awkward middle school relationship that you think of, with fumbling over your words and waiting months to even hold the other person’s hand. Instead, there was this whole new realization that boys actually liked me. ME! And when you’re trying to conquer insecurity and self-doubt as a teenage girl, that’s all it takes for some soul-shaping decisions to be made that end up doing more harm than good.
I dove head first into that relationship, giving it all of my heart (and my body), only to find that my idea of commitment was very different from his. After two years, my heart was shattered. I quickly realized that “love” was not as glamorous as it sounded.
Shortly after that first relationship ended, I tried giving high school boys the benefit of the doubt and jumped into yet another “serious” relationship without doing any healing of my own. This time, I knew it would be right because clearly, I had been through the worst of it, so I knew what I was doing now. Fast forward another three years later, after future plans had been made and promise rings were bought, just to find that I was even more wrong this time than I had been the first time.
By the time I was a sophomore in college, I had lost my hope, my virginity, and any desire I’d had for romantic relationships.
By the grace of God, I was living with some incredible roommates at the time, who loved me so well and pointed me toward Jesus; ultimately, He would save my life, although I had no idea at the time. Throughout the next year, I gave my life to Christ, became involved with leading Young Life, and spent a lot of time working toward healing the hurt in my heart that my willful sin in relationships had created.
Around that same time, I met Jacob, the man who would later become my husband. He was a fellow Young Life leader and a big part of my circle of friends. My roommates and I talked all the time about how he was so great and whoever married him would be one lucky gal, but NEVER in a million years did I expect that it would be me. I wore my past and my shame over myself like a veil, separating myself and my heart from the rest of the world.
If I could go back and say one thing to myself, it would be that my sexual past in no way was my identity. We ALL carry sexual testimonies, and they are stories that God cares fiercely about because He cares about the condition of our hearts. Since I knew who Jesus was by this point, I should have remembered the Jesus who stood with a Samaritan woman at the well, in the face of her sexual filth, and stayed – I should have remembered that He offered her living water anyway. I now know a Jesus who looks at our sexual stories and says “I’m not finished with you yet,” because He is a God of redemption and healing.
I felt completely unworthy of having a Godly man pursue me because of the shame I had been wearing. Luckily for me, Jacob was persistent, and he was also so incredibly patient. I expressed my concerns and my fear of not being ready, and he listened and waited for me. We spent months having conversations over coffee and getting to know each other amongst our group of friends before we finally decided together that we were ready to make things official. We dated for a year before he asked me to marry him and throughout that year, we spent countless hours having horribly uncomfortable conversations where he practically had to pry my thoughts and feelings from me with the jaws of life. I cared about him so much and wanted to have a relationship with him but putting my hurt behind me and allowing myself to be open and vulnerable again proved much harder than expected. After a year of dating and another year of engagement, I had gotten much better at openly speaking about what was on my heart and trusting him to love me gracefully through all of my junk. Problem solved, right?!
We got married, and like I said earlier, being married is the greatest! There is so much fun, excitement, and love that comes from sharing your life with someone in a marriage.
But do you know what else comes with marriage? Sex. And let me just tell you, nothing says vulnerability like having sex with someone. While I had done a lot of healing throughout our dating and engagement periods, I had no idea how much trauma I still held in my heart from my previous sexual sin. On top of that, the entire time you are dating and engaged, everything you hear around you from a Christian perspective is that “you can’t have sex,” and my brain automatically translated that to meaning that sex is a bad thing. Then, all of a sudden, you spend one day committing yourselves to one another in front of all your family and friends and BOOM! Sex is allowed and even celebrated! It is a completely mind-blowing phenomenon, and one that I am still trying to wrap my head around. Making the shift from being engaged to being married was harder for me to grasp than I ever imagined it to be.
Jacob and I have been married for eight months now, and we are still working on navigating through my past sexual hurt every day. Some days I feel totally enveloped in God’s grace and ready to take on the world, but other days, I feel insecure, shameful, unworthy, and afraid. It’s been a rollercoaster ride that has not been “neat and tidy” by any means. There has been a lot of tears, a lot of prayer, and a lot of hard conversations, but the good thing is that it’s getting better, day by day.
God has really shown up for us throughout this struggle, and we are so thankful, because this stuff is too big and too ugly for us to take care of on our own. For the longest time, I was holding on to all of the hurt from my past sexual experiences and carrying it into my marriage, as if my marriage was just an extension of the last unhealthy relationship I was in; it was causing me to be closed off and separated from my husband, which was hurting our marriage deeply.
Recently, God hit me like a ton of bricks with the truth that that baggage I’ve been clinging to and obsessing over is FINISHED. I may have willingly made a choice that willingly was hurting me through my sexual decisions, and the aftermath of that was so hard, but nevertheless, it is finished. I have been made new and those strongholds on my heart don’t have a place there anymore. And they most certainly don’t have a place in our marriage.
This truth has helped me to reform my definition of sex. After being taught that sex was wrong for most of my life, and then having so many negative experiences that left me relating sex to pain, guilt, and shame, it’s no wonder that it wasn’t all sunshine and roses after initially being married.
Here is the truth, though! Sex is not wrong, dirty, or shameful when placed in the right context. Within a marriage, God perfectly crafted men and women to share life together and to be there for one another.
“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper who is just right for him.” Genesis 2:18 NLT
Not only did God create us for one another, but He also identifies that the bond between husband and wife through marriage includes sexual intimacy when He says, “That is why a man leaves his father and his mother and is united with his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 NIV).
Here is the reality. Life is hard. Marriage is hard. But both are so beautiful when done with Jesus. When your lives and your marriages are running after the Lord, every part of it all reflects that, including sex. Within the covenant of marriage, sex unites, restores, refreshes, and has the ability to create life! All of these things are incredible blessings that God has granted us in this life through sex alone.
Whether you are single, dating, engaged, married, carrying some heavy sexual burdens, or trying to understand the WHY behind God’s command to restrain from sexual intimacy before marriage, please understand this: God is good.
God loves us unimaginably more than any human ever could. He does not give us this command to be cold or rude. He gives us this command so that we do not have to feel the pain, guilt, and shame that I felt for so many years. We are not meant for that kind of intimacy with just anyone. It is something totally unique, and it tears down walls, exposes your heart, and leaves you vulnerable. Sex is meant for marriage, and it is entirely different when it is used for its true purpose in that union.
It is worth it. The wait is worth it. If you are currently waiting to have sex until you get married and committed to that goal, I admire you, and I applaud you. Keep going – it will be well worth your temporary sacrifice. And if you didn’t wait, or you have messed up while trying to wait? There is hope. You too can be freed from that shame. You are loved by an incredibly forgiving God who will wash you clean, make you new, and walk with you as you navigate freedom from that burden. Trust me: there is grace that He desires to pour out – there is healing that He will raise you up with. In your weakness, HE IS POWERFUL.
If there is one thing my journey with romance and sex has taught me, it’s that in my brokenness, God has surely been exemplified – but only when I’ve given Him the room to be. When we lay our weakness, brokenness, and shame at His feet, He picks it up and is empowered beyond our comprehension.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV
Kara Boehner is a Speech Language Pathologist and serves in a school for children with autism in the Greater Pittsburgh area. She is married to her husband, Jacob, and when she’s not working, you’ll find her baking, being crafty since they just bought their first home, and browsing the dollar section at Target for all the fun things. She feels her life mission is to love all of God’s children through the simplicity of doing life with them and sharing the Gospel through her words and actions.
Her go-to Scripture is: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” John 8:32.
You can connect with Kara on her Instagram: follow @kelizabeth1205 and let her know how her story has blessed you!